University academics want to rein in the salaries paid to their bosses.

The academics' union, the Tertiary Education Union, says the highest salary at any university or polytechnic should be no more than five times the lowest salary.

The rule would mean more than halving the salary of University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon from its current $710,000-$719,999 to $334,000 - five times a tutor's starting salary of $66,839.

Or, based on the lowest-paid non-academic salary of $33,302 for junior office staff, the vice-chancellor's salary could be only $166,510 - just above the current professor's salary of $153,841.

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A report on funding tertiary education, released by the union today, also recommends a new system of "baseline funding" of tertiary institutions to replace the current roll-based funding, which causes fluctuations due to short-term changes in student numbers.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins is reviewing the current roll-based system for polytechnics because of projections that 80 per cent of them will face deficits by 2022 unless the system is changed.

The union proposes baseline funding based on a staff/student ratio of 1:15 averaged over three years, plus higher loadings for small regions and costly subjects such as nursing, teaching, plumbing and electrical trades.

It also says: "Funding must be allocated equitably so all institutions become exemplary state employers – including payment of a Living Wage to all staff directly and indirectly employed; eliminating any and all gender pay imbalances; and stopping inappropriate growth of casual, insecure and fixed-term employment agreements.

"Steps also need to be taken to address the disparity between Chief Executive and
Vice-Chancellor salaries and the lowest paid staff.

"The Minister could set a requirement for the highest salary at an institution to be
no more than five times that of the lowest salary and use this as a prerequisite for receiving public funds."

The report says every community should have access to courses up to certificate level "within reasonable travelling time", and to diploma and degree-level courses "in every region".

It accepts that postgraduate courses could be accessible only "at the national or international level".